Research Tuesdays: Case Studies

Case studies are completely different from the way we often think of studies- large populations with quantifiable, calculable data.  But case studies are excellent for understanding new areas of information, and exploring what we may currently be missing in health studies by providing a snapshot of individuals or groups within a certain situation.  Here are two papers including case studies of fat-related health issues that are not currently receiving a lot of research:

Eating Disorders in Fat Teens

Fat people have eating disorders.  This isn’t often talked about because it is often difficult to diagnose eating disorders in fat (or previously fat people), because behaviors are initially seen as normal and even praise-worthy. 

Not surprisingly overweight and obese teens are developing eating disorders, with studies showing just under half, to over half, of eating disorder patients have a history of above-ideal BMI, with diagnoses ranging from anorexia nervosa, to bulimia nervosa, to binge-eating disorder, to eating disorder- not otherwise specified (ED-NOS). This paper, presented in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, covers two case studies regarding adolescents with eating disorders that started at age 12, and went undiagnosed for two and six years, respectively.  The discussion section of the paper notes that these cases are not unique. 

Whenever weights are used in eating disorder criteria, it causes some patients to fly under the radar.  Behaviors are a far more accurate way to identify eating disorders, and fat folks are far from immune.  By far, the majority of eating disorders start from dieting

Fat Positivity improving Health Outcomes

This article covers health outcomes and stories of 44 fat advocacy bloggers.  The researches discovered that these people reported improved health, as well as ways to combat stigma and build community.  Stigma, essentially public disapproval or shame, is known to adversely affect health. These people found a way to cope with the stigma and stress of being fat in a culture that , and shared ways to improve health without weight loss. 

Dr. Samantha Thomas, a researcher involved in the study, said “Having that support and feeling empowered, people slowly found that their health behaviours began to change dramatically…People shifted their focus away from weight loss and more toward health. A lot of people started to take part in physical activity not as a way to lose weight but because they enjoyed it…It’s actually a massive shift in the way they looked at things.”

She also stated, “There are actually a lot of lessons for public health here.”